Behavior-Based Interview


One tool you can use to ensure you find the right people is “behavior-based interviewing.” It starts with writing down the behaviors that are most important for success in a particular job – not the tasks. Managing a team, motivating people, developing under-performers, starting a line of business, engaging people in change – these all might be behaviors you’re looking for. This list becomes your litmus test for selecting the right people.

The corollary of behavior based interviewing is open-ended recruiting: When a position comes open, you keep searching until you find the right person, even if it means temporary hardship. Finding the right person is simply too important to warrant settling for less.

The quest to get the right people means you should always be on the lookout for talent. After all, talented people are almost by definition not looking for work. So if you want to build a great company, you’re going to have to employ unusual means to get the right people on board. Good leaders typically spend 25 percent of their time recruiting and developing talent.

The cost of settling for second best can be huge. First, there’s the cost to ensure someone is trained properly. That’s a cost you would bear in any case. But by settling for second best, you may have to spend more time training them to make sure they don’t make mistakes. Maybe you spend more time checking their work. Maybe you insist on multiple signoffs on their decisions. Maybe you revise a process to make sure his or her work is reviewed by someone you trust. For the sake of filling the position, you add a little bit more bureaucracy to the organization.

Now comes the higher, hidden cost. The talented people in your organization start to resent the new person. They’ve got to deal with his or her blunders. Maybe they have to subject themselves to the same bureaucracy. This irritates them at first – then it starts to grate. Morale suffers. Ultimately, the genuinely talented people decide to move on. The net result is a significant erosion of trust. All because you failed to find the right people in the first place.

Here is an example of a typical interview vs. behavior based interview:

Typical Interview:

  • Describe your experience in sales.
  • Have you ever had to manage large accounts?
  • Describe your greatest success.
  • What motivates you?
  • How do you handle conflicts?

Behavior Based Interview:

  • This position requires a person to make five sales calls a day while traveling in a territory from Minneapolis to Atlanta. Tell me about your experience managing those kinds of sales logistics.
  • This position requires people to manage large accounts with three or four contacts inside the organization, all of whom need to say “yes” to consummate a sale. Tell me about your experience making such a sale. How did you get them all to say “yes”?
  • We expect people to be self-motivated. Describe your own motivations for success. Describe examples where you went an extra mile for a client – and for your company?
  • Tell us how you handled a situation that made you look bad. What did you do? What did you say? What was the result?
  • This position requires working with an internal R&D team to help them modify our product for a new launch every twelve months. Describe how you’ve successfully managed internal relationships with R&D teams to maximize the success of upgraded products?

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